Stearns To Receive University’s Highest Honor—the Mason Medal

The Mason Medal is the university’s highest honorary award. Those receiving this recognition have a record of service consistent with the level of George Mason the man’s public service. Provost Peter N. Stearns is one of the three recipients this year.

He’s published more than 125 books. He’s brought down the house performing excerpts from Gilbert and Sullivan operas on stage and at faculty functions. He’s provided historical perspective on “Meet the Press.” He was among the first faculty members to offer impromptu “flash” lectures around campus—in fact, offering flash lectures was his idea. He’s travelled six continents helping George Mason University extend its reach and advance global education. During his tenure, George Mason became the largest public university in Virginia, expanded its research and doctoral levels, and earned a large number of national and international accolades. And, this Saturday, for his efforts on behalf of Mason, Provost Peter N. Stearns will be awarded the Mason Medal, the university’s highest honor.

Stearns joined the university as provost and professor of history on January 1, 2000. Educated at Harvard University, Stearns previously taught at Harvard, the University of Chicago, Rutgers University and Carnegie Mellon University. During Stearns’s leadership as provost, Mason has more than tripled its level of funded research and tripled its number of doctoral programs.

Expanding global partnerships has been a hallmark of Stearns’s tenure at Mason. His efforts include a growing number of dual-degree programs and elaborate connections with students and universities in such countries as Brazil, China, Russia, South Korea and Turkey.

Recently, he spearheaded several particularly important initiatives to expand the university’s global presence, namely the establishment of the branch campus in Incheon, Korea, and the collaboration with INTO to increase the number and diversity of students recruited from abroad. Each of these projects is deeply rooted in a desire to increase global understanding and opportunities for constructive collaboration among different societies.

Mason received the 2006 Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education, and in March 2012, the university launched a Global Problem Solving Consortium with several distinguished international partners, for which Mason received the Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Campus Internationalization.

Stearns has also sought to maintain a creative balance between teaching and research at Mason, with innovations such as the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence, research leave for junior faculty members and formal programs for undergraduate research. Since Stearns has been at Mason, student retention and graduation rates have steadily improved, along with expansion of honors programs and residence life.

Stearns has written or edited more than 125 books, mainly on social history, including the history of emotions, and world history. Recent works include “Doing Emotions History” and “Peace in World History.” Since 1967, he has served as editor-in-chief of “The Journal of Social History.”

He was named University Professor in January 2011. Despite the considerable workload as chief academic officer for the university, he has taught an introductory undergraduate history course each fall semester, as well as a graduate course each spring.

After 14 years as provost, Stearns steps down on June 30. But he’s not retiring. The man who has seemingly boundless reserves of energy will still teach history at Mason and will continue his research and writing.

An event to celebrate Stearns’s legacy was held in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Monday, May 12.

“This is unquestionably the most interesting and fulfilling job I have ever had,” he said. “I was somewhat surprised I got it and was then, and am even more now, truly grateful for the opportunity.”